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Giving them credit when it’s due

By Staff | Jan 27, 2013

When the Blue Earth City Council has made some questionable moves in the past, we have never hesitated to point it out.

When they postpone a decision about something as important as hiring a new police chief, we write about it, both in news stories and on this editorial page.

Or when they can’t get their act together about how long the airport runway should be, whether to have council members at large or not, or even when they had to decide on how many police officers to have.

So, I feel duty bound to point out when they do something good.

Or, at least intend to.

Monday night the council spent some time at their work session discussing the project that will be done this summer on Highland Drive in the Valley Highlands Subdivision just on the far southwest edge of Blue Earth.

The project calls for sewer and water lines replacement, as well as total street reconstruction. That means the street would become 36 feet wide and have curb and gutters.

It also included plans for a sidewalk where none had ever been before.

The council had decided several years ago to go with 36-foot-wide streets. That allows room for two driving lanes of 10 feet each, and two parking areas of eight feet on both sides of the street.

The sidewalk on Highland Drive was officially being called a trail.

But, as City Engineer Wes Brown pointed out, this trail will be four and a half feet wide and be made of concrete.

In other words, he said, you can call it what you want, but it will look like a sidewalk.

Because of some extra grading and some retaining walls being necessary, this trail/sidewalk was going to cost $100,000.

Some council members questioned the sidewalk cost. Some questioned the cost of going with a 36-foot-wide street. Is it really necessary to have two driving lanes and two parking lanes on this street, they asked.

They discussed going with a 30-foot-wide street, with just two driving lanes and one parking lane, meaning that parking would only be allowed on one side of the street.

The trail/sidewalk would remain as is.

But now, at Monday’s council meeting, a third idea came up.

It would keep the wide street, but go with just one parking lane. The space for a parking lane on the other side of the street would be a designated walking/biking lane.

This plan would save the city $100,000 on the project, because the separate sidewalk would be eliminated.

Nobody asked me, but here is my 2 cents worth.

Given a choice, I think the separate trail/sidewalk is the best, mainly for safety reasons and keeping the bikers and walkers off the street surface itself.

Another reason is aesthetics a trail would be more pleasing to the eye, more scenic, especially with the retaining walls that will be built along its route.

That said, I can also see the reasoning for having it on the street.

First off it would save $100,000. Although if one is going to spend a million bucks on the project, why not go all the way and spend another $100K.

Secondly, the old issue of snow removal will probably come to play.

Yes, having it as part of the street means it will be plowed in the winter. And, it takes the onus off of property owners to get out and keep the trail/sidewalk clear.

But, there is also a need to clearly mark the pathway on the street as a walking/biking/hiking trail. The city hardly marks the crosswalks, much less any trails or bike paths.

But, however the city decides to proceed with this project, we have to take note of one thing.

Whether it is a separate sidewalk or a marked path on the street, at least the city council has decided to make it part of the project, and we commend them for that.

It is a good start to forming an interconnected set of walking/biking paths around and through the city.

A group of local citizens has been working on this walkability, bikeability plan for some time, and it is good to see it coming to fruition.

With this path on Highland Drive, and new trails planned along the new Highway 169 reconstruction project, Blue Earth will soon become a leader in walking and biking paths.

And, that is a good thing. For kids, adults, visitors everyone.

That’s my 2 cents worth, anyway.